Corrie Martin stands in front of a screen and talks to a group of faculty and students
December 20, 2021

Dream Big, Dream Blue: Student Visions of Teaching and Learning

Tang Institute's student advisors seek to democratize and uplift student engagement with Andover’s innovative pedagogy.
by Frank ’22

February 2020. In the Tirana Room in Bulfinch Hall, afternoon sunlight filters through the full-length windows and floods the classroom with a near-majestic aura. This was one of the first gatherings of the Student Advisors of the Tang Institute (SATI), a student cohort assembled by Corrie Martin, the Tang Institute’s senior fellow in engaged pedagogy, seeking to integrate student input and engagement with Tang Institute initiatives and trailblazing faculty projects. That afternoon, as we discussed everything from dismantling the "extrovert ideal" to a re-envisioned approach to Spanish language learning, conversation zipped across the room with palpable energy. We fledgling pedagogical advisors were perched to dream big and take flight.

That day, when I shuffled into the Tirana Room wrapped in my winter coat and the specter of winter term finals looming a few short weeks away, I never imagined that our spirited conversations and learning would soon be spliced by plexiglass and shoehorned into Zoom screens. Five weeks later, when we would have returned to an Andover campus poised for a new term and dotted with pops of spring color, the Tirana Room sat empty. In 2020 and early 2021, SATI was put on hold.

But students hardly stopped dreaming about teaching and learning. In November 2021, SATI—galvanized by a return to in-person learning—organized a Tang Institute Lunch & Discussion featuring Lawrence-based catering and unmasked smiles. Over taquitos and salad, students and Tang faculty fellows began with small group discussions on ongoing projects like Exploring Opportunity: Economics, Big Data, and Social Inequality and the ethi{CS} project. Each student–faculty cohort then circulated to brainstorming stations around the room. In response to prompts like “What can Tang be?” “Where do students fit?” and “Goals for the term,” students and faculty took to poster-size sticky notes with colorful markers and unremitting enthusiasm. For an hour, students and faculty quite literally threw ideas at the wall to see which would stick—and we came away with posters filled with aspirations and impassioned scrawls.

Since then, we haven’t looked back. Following our November gathering, ethi{CS} project faculty and students continued to explore opportunities for student engagement in ethics and computer science pedagogy. Two Martin Luther King Day workshops inspired by our November conversations—“System Error: Racism in AI” and “Beyond the Dollar Bill: Social Justice and Economics”—will invite students into conversations around social justice in computer science and economics come January 2022.

So, we find ourselves amidst a new norm and poised to take on (re)new(ed) beginnings. Personally, I’m also eager to further explore climate connections in the classroom, building off of some half a dozen climate-related projects and collaborations from the 2019–2020 school year. We must prepare Andover’s graduates for the world of tomorrow—and this charge is all but smothered (pun intended) when there’s no tomorrow at all.

Gaia ’22, one of SATI’s co-leaders for the 2021–2022 school year, also can’t wait to get started. “I am excited to bring aboard more student advisors,” she says, “get involved with faculty projects, and help shape the future of the Institute in a way that allows students to be an integral part of the process.”

Gaia was also in the Tirana Room in February 2020 and looks back with excitement about how far we’ve come. “This is an exciting and innovative part of our school that I hope more people will learn more about and have the chance to interact and collaborate with,” she says. As we saw in November, dozens of students and faculty agree.

There are so many opportunities to dream big and get started. SATI isn’t just about what we put in our classrooms; it’s about what we deposit for our future as graduates of Phillips Academy and “youth from every quarter.” We are excited to invite our peers across grades to join us in furthering student-faculty collaboration.

Shoot us an email at [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and co-leaders Erin Kim ([email protected]) and Julian Reed ([email protected]) to get started. We can’t wait for you to join us.


Frank ’22 is a senior at Phillips Academy and a 2021–2022 SATI co-leader.

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